I intended to get these brief reviews posted sooner, so that you would have more time to consider reading through one during the upcoming Lenten season. BUT, if you haven’t already selected a book to read through Lent, these Lent 2021 devotionals are all highly recommended, and all available fairly quickly through internet retailers (in print or ebook format).
Lent of Liberation is a timely call for lament and action around the legacy of slavery in the United States. The book consists of 40 daily devotions for the Lenten season. Each devotion begins with clip from a slave narrative (an historical account of a slave’s life and experience) and a brief passage of scripture. In each day’s devotional, Mills brings these two passages into conversation with one another. Interspersed throughout the book are sidebars containing “facts about black oppression,” which provide additional context for the daily devotionals. Lent of Liberation is a profound call for repentance, a change of heart related to the long and continuing history of racial oppression in the United States. My Lenten practice for this year will include working daily through this book, reading and praying through each of the devotionals. I invite you to join me in this journey.
Marilyn McEntyre is one of my favorite writers within the tradition of Christian spirituality. I was thus delighted to see that she has written a devotional book for the Lenten season, Where the Eye Alights: Phrases for the Forty Days of Lent. (I believe that this is the first book that she has written specifically for the Lenten season). This book also consists of forty daily reflections, each focusing on a key Lenten phrase from scripture or the Christian tradition. Some of the phrases explored include: “Remember that you are dust” (Day 1, Ash Wednesday, naturally), “Watch and pray” (Day 3), “Imitation of Christ” (Day 32). The phrases that McEntyre selected reflect traditional Lenten themes, but in her distinctive style, she brings each phrase into conversation with contemporary realities. McEntyre’s daily meditations, although brief, are meaty and leave the reader mulling them over for most of the day.
A third and final Lenten companion book that I want to recommend here is Sheila Upjohn’s The Way of Julian of Norwich: A Prayer Journey through Lent. This book, published in the UK by SPCK, might be a little harder to find in the U.S. than the previous two books, although in our internet-saturated age, it seems to be available from most internet booksellers and should not be hard to track down a copy. Upjohn has written a number of books on Julian of Norwich and her writings, but this appears to be the first specifically designed as a Lenten companion. The book is structured differently than the previous two, choosing a weekly structure instead of a daily one. The six chapters of the book explore six Lenten themes that emerge from Julian’s work, interspersing brief clips of Julian’s writing with the author’s own reflections on them. In keeping with the Lenten theme, Upjohn spends a good portion of the book exploring Julian’s understanding of sin, and yet she ends on a hopeful note, but rather “a joy; a happiness; an endless delight,” which strikingly is a meditation on Julian’s wrestling with the crucifixion of Jesus. This book is both a superb intro to the thought of Julian of Norwich, but also a helpful Lenten guide that helps us wrestle with these themes in our own daily lives.